Chewing the Fat with the Hemsley Sisters
The half Filipino Hemsley and Hemsley, former model Jasmine and her sister Melissa, sprang to fame as healthy cookery writers with their recipe book the Art of Eating Well. Their first TV series starts on Monday.
What inspired your love of food and healthy eating?
We’ve always loved food from early on thanks to our mum being wonderful and inspiring in the kitchen. She would make use of everything we had – definitely where our frugal streak comes from – and each meal was made with great care and attention. The more we tuned into how our bodies were really feeling, the more we realised the relationship between food and good health.
This recent movement on ‘healthy’ eating being all about low fat, fake ‘health foods’ which are often full of sugar did not appeal to us and more importantly does not make sense. We were confident that we could make better food than what’s on offer commercially. We realised that taking things back to basics and making it all about real food that nourishes you, made us feel so much more alive.
Your mum is Filipino, what did you learn from her about food and cooking when you were growing up?
Our Mum is a great cook and her food is simple, quick and frugal but always delicious! Our Mum cooked intuitively based on what was in the fridge and cupboards and that’s something we definitely picked up, as well as a love of leftovers. She also cooked the cheaper cuts of meat and was a fan of slow cooking, we grew up eating a lot of nutritious chicken livers. Being part of a large family, mum taught us the importance of utilising leftovers and this is something we mention a lot in our first book The Art of Eating Well. She used to eat a lot of white rice but we’ve converted her and all our Filipino family to cauliflower rice!
What sparked the idea of writing your own recipes?
We wanted to guide people with delicious recipes to eat well and feel better. With so many ideas of what’s healthy and what’s not, it’s become easy to lose your way on what eating well really is. We help navigate through all the confusion and misinformation and take it back to basics by focusing on real, whole foods so you can tune in to your body and find out what works for you.
All of our recipes are easy to follow and many of them are one-pot dishes that won’t have you slaving over a stove. We champion the cheaper cuts of meat that are highly nutritious such as chicken livers and pack as many vegetables into our creations as possible. We’re all about taste – we didn’t want healthy and tasteless, but delicious and unhealthy is no solution either. A lot of our recipes have been inspired by clients and friends who wanted us to come up with healthier alternatives of their favourite comfort foods.
A recipe of ours which has been hugely popular is our Beef Ragu and Courgetti. In this Italian-inspired dish we’ve replaced heavy, glutenous pasta with courgette noodles using our much-loved Hemsley Spiralizer. Spiralizing vegetables is something we love to do – it not only adds texture and beauty but allows you to make vegetables the main part of a meal quickly and easily, while replacing pasta and wheat noodles.
What are your thoughts on cutting out food groups?
We’re all about eating mindfully with two main things in consideration; quality and provenance. Keeping it simple and sourcing ingredients that are as close to nature as possible and preparing them for optimal digestion. It’s also not just about what you eat, but how you eat. We really emphasise things like sitting down to a meal, taking your time, making sure you chew properly. We do not advocate calorie counting or cutting out entire food groups.
Our recipes are free from grains, gluten and refined sugar all of which are overly abundant in the modern diet in all their refined and hybridised forms. They can also cause problems with blood sugar balancing (and in turn overeating and feeling hungry again soon after) as well as digestive issues for a vast majority of people. Avoiding these foods makes room for more nutrient dense alternatives to keep blood sugar levels stable which is key to good health.
We also minimize even the most natural sugars, e.g. raw honey, dates and pure maple syrup. We avoid any chemically processed foods such as hydrogenated fats and don’t cook with vegetable oils, instead using saturated fats such as coconut oil and animal fats like butter, ghee, duck fat etc. These are nutritious and natural as well as being heat stable – classic cooking fats. We save unrefined cold pressed plant oils like extra virgin olive oil, flax oil and sesame oil to dress our food. With so many ideas of what’s healthy and what’s not, it’s become easy to lose your way on what eating well really is. We steer clear of products that shout ‘low fat’ and ‘no fat’ as well as those promoted as ‘low calorie’.
So you’re all for eating fat?
There is a myth that fat (especially saturated fat) is bad. In reality, fat, derived from both the animal and plant kingdoms, is essential to human well being. This nutrient-dense, nourishing food is an excellent source of energy that makes your meals satisfying and tasty. The body needs both saturated and unsaturated fats in their most natural forms for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K, slowing down the release of sugar and optimal digestion. For example, extra virgin coconut oil is a perfect and tasty fat for stir-frying, baking and roasting as well as adding to smoothies and sweets. Made up of medium-chain fatty acids, it provides an easily obtainable energy source that doesn’t spike blood sugar levels.
Eating Well with Hemsley & Hemsley television series starts on Channel Four in the UK on Monday